Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay: Listening


This is the first post in a series about building trust. Listening is the most important way to build trust which we will discover throughout the rest of this post.

Check out the photo above of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to summit Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. Mount Everest looms 29,029 ft above sea level where it’s impossible for humans to survive for more than a few hours. The air at that altitude makes it almost impossible for a climbers to breath. The two climbers, one British and one Nepalese had very little in common except for their passion for climbing. But together they achieved something that had never been done before.

Today Sherpas fix lines along the ascent path in case a climber slips, the fixed lines will save them. At the cruising altitude of a commercial jet, with cold that could cause frostbite on exposed skin in seconds, there were no fixed lines to save the adventurers from falls. Instead the pair ascended roped together for safety. If one were to slip, the other was supposed to react and catch them before they fell. It takes an unbelievable amount of trust to put your life in someone else’s hands like that.

What I take away from the first ascent of Mount Everest is that to achieve incredible things, you need to have incredible trust. These two historical figures could not have realized the summit without trusting each other implicitly.

Trust is the most important aspect of any relationship. But how do you build trust? Unfortunately I don’t know how Hillary and Norgay came to trust each other so implicitly, but I do know how I’ve been able to build trust in my life.

While you can use many ways to build trust, I’ll focus on four ways that I grow trust:

Building Trust — Part I: Listening
Building Trust — Part II: Vulnerability
Building Trust — Part III: Simplicity
Building Trust — Part IV: Follow-through

These are the keys to building the level of trust necessary for a deep relationship.


Listening is one of the most valuable skills for building trusting relationships. Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, once said, “One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.” Listening challenges me because I must cede something (giving the gift) and listening to someone makes them feel important and appreciated (receiving the gift).

It is incredibly hard for me to do because while somebody is talking, I’m usually preparing my response. And if I’m letting my emotions control my behavior I’m probably not listening at all.

Think about people who you admire — are they good at listening to you? I’ve often noticed that the people I admire most in my life are those that willingly give me the gift of their attention. I walk away from the conversation with them and I feel energized and important – only to realize that they didn’t really say anything at all. We had a one-sided conversation where they were giving me the gift of their attention.

I imagine that Tenzing and Hillary listened to each other intently before and during their dangerous ascent.

Most people are dying to tell you about themselves! The more you listen, the more they will say.

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